Love makes fools of us all. Shakespeare realised this truth centuries ago and nothing much has changed.
Perhaps that’s why he made sure there were so many fools in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this play about the comedy to be found in pursuing the object of your desire... especially if controlled by the magic of meddling fairies.
In the production currently running at Royal & Derngate and directed by Gary Sefton, the accent is on foolishness rather than love.
This is presented quite effectively in one of the secondary threads of the main plot, the famous play-within-the-play, and these amateur dramatics offer the chance for Joe Alessi (playing Bottom) to show us how a fine actor can play a very hammy (but enthusiastic) actor and still draw laughter and admiration from the audience.
The rest of the play was light and shade, in more than one sense. The four magic-addled lovers who run off into the forest varied in their effectiveness.
Frances McNamee (Helena) stood out as the best suited to conveying the physical comedy implied in the text, and had an ability for emphasising just the right words. The Edwardian theme did not add too much to the play, aside from some period outfits.
However, Sefton’s bold line, drawn between the whimsy of the humans and the serious - and, in the case of goblin-like Puck (Colin Ryan), unsettling - fairies does add an interesting contrast.
The director ultimately seems to be separating the timeless love of Titania and Oberon, the fairy king and queen, with the sometimes ridiculous nature of young human passions.
“What fools these mortals be” indeed. The play will run until May 11.